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Reading, Writing, and Resident Evil

At the first public school for “digital kids,” videogames are required.

2 min read

When students return in September, one group of sixth graders won�t have to leave their Nintendos at home.  They�re the inaugural class of

Quest to Learn

, a new 6th to 12th grade public school in Manhattan built on a controversial idea:   using videogames to power education. The school�s hip young executive director and self-described �game geek,� Katie Salen, thinks it�s a necessary way to boost math skills, and reduce the city�s 48% dropout rate. �These are digital kids,� she says, �they�ve already transformed our society, why not education?�


The school � nicknamed Q2L � will be the first of its kind in the country, and a model for others to come.  It�s designed by the Institute of Play - a local non-profit that develops game education programs for government, academia, and industry � and New Visions for Public Schools, the largest education reform group in the city.  Teachers will use games as a learning tool and also instruct students in interactive design.  Videogames such as Civilization will be used to teach history, and literature courses will examine, say, the narrative arc of Halo 3.  Instead of standard courses in English or math, classes will be based on the game-like idea of missions, with specific quests students must complete over the term.  In a language course, for example, kids will be tasked with �teaching� Spanish to a group of aliens on a distant planet.  The work is done using Skype audio chat software and a special computer game designed by Q2L�s staff. 


While this is groundbreaking for a public grade school, game studies are becoming more engrained in higher education around the world.  Schools from Stanford to the University of London offer courses in game design and theory.   Nintendo sponsors the DigiPen game college in Seattle.  The emerging discipline of Ludology � the study of games � has its own conferences, academic journals, and professional organizations.   Salen is less focused on churning out game designers than in stimulating and motivating a new generation of students.  Q2L, which will be housed on 23rd street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, will feature an interactive media lab, Xbox development kits, and guest speakers from the game industry.



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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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